February 27, 2009
First is Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers, who spoke at length about several subjects -- including his newborn son -- with Dmitry Shumin of Sovetsky Sport (which will appear in the paper tomorrow; link online is here). Puck Daddy's Dmitry Chesnokov translates the following section of the interview, in which Kovalchuk talks about the differences between Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. From SovSport:
Not long ago Washington played Pittsburgh. And Alex Ovechkin showed a sign to Crosby that might have meant less talk. Did he learn it from you? I remember that when [during one game] Crosby was given a penalty and you scored a goal, you pointed at him with your glove, and that gesture became famous in Atlanta.
KOVALCHUK: "These are emotions. Ovechkin did everything right. [You] have to play hockey. Show on the ice what you are capable of. And the weak talk a lot. Ovechkin proved everything - scored a goal and Washington won. He had a full right to his gesture."
Crosby said that Ovechkin is a dirty player...
KOVALCHUK: "Then no one at all should play hockey! The rules in the NHL after the lockout changed considerably. Let Crosby see how [players] played in the league before. Ovechkin's style is emotional, clean hockey. That's why he is the best player in the NHL right now."
But the league in [its] promotions puts emphasis on Crosby.
KOVALCHUK: "He is local. Here a [local] player is needed to become the face of the NHL. A Russian cannot be the face of a North American league! But Ovechkin, in all characteristics, is way stronger than Crosby. I am not 'rediscovering America' -- a lot of people have mentioned so. Crosby is a great player. But he has a long way to go to Ovechkin. If I were to pick players for my fantasy team, I would definitely pick Alex. We are friends. We have similar characters, a lot of common interests. I like Ovechkin not only as a hockey player. He is closer to me in spirit."
As we've found in previous discussions with Russian players, there's a lot of animosity directed at Crosby for the whole "face of the NHL" thing, for which he really can't be blamed. But "the weak talk a lot" ... ouch. Sid's on-ice chatter has certainly cemented impressions about him.
Meanwhile, Adam Burish of the Chicago Blackhawks displayed some genuine Sidney disrespect in speaking with Sarah Spain of Mouthpiece Sports. When told that Crosby won't lace'em up for the Penguins' game against the Blackhawks, Burish's response was: "I don't know who Sidney Crosby is."
That was before he went into the Crybaby thing. Take a gander:
Both of these comments are just more evidence of something that's become a plank in the Puck Daddy platform: That Crosby is, organically and in the hockey narrative, a villain. He's a heel. It's something that James O'Brien wrote about recently on Cycle Like The Sedins, which pointed this bit from Battle of California that compared Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin to, of all things, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart. (Is today wrestling day or Sarah Spain day on Puck Daddy?) From BoC:
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. "The Hitman" Bret Hart: Not a bad parallel to the Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby rivalry when you think about it. Austin/Ovechkin appeal to the simple fan with brashness and aggressiveness; Hart/Crosby are vaguely whiny, undeniably talented Canadians. Crosby might even have a disturbing obsession with baby oil and strange sunglasses for all we know.
Like any good promoter, it's up to the NHL to figure out how to put Crosby over for maximum effect.